From Paper to Software

Feb. 16, 2011

Published with permission from Equipment Manager magazine by AEMP.

The fleet of Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based energy company made up of four business units, operates in 48 states and the Netherlands. It includes a variety of machines used to lift and move various materials.

Published with permission from Equipment Manager magazine by AEMP.

The fleet of Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based energy company made up of four business units, operates in 48 states and the Netherlands. It includes a variety of machines used to lift and move various materials.

“We have pipelines that transport natural gas and products such as gasoline and jet fuel,” says Donald G. Pleu, heavy equipment manager. “We have pipelines that transport [carbon dioxide] from source fields in Colorado to West Texas for use in enhanced oil recovery. In addition, Kinder Morgan also owns and operates terminals that handle and store products and chemicals, and handles liquids and bulk material like coal fertilizer and steel.”

Until a few years ago, four or five computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), plus composition notebooks and spreadsheets, were used to track data from the diverse equipment.

In 2007, company executives took a hard look at the CMMS and decided not to make any additional investment in the majority of the systems. Instead, they zeroed in on Arsenault Associate’s Dossier system, which had the flexibility and capability to gather assorted data, not only from heavy mobile equipment, but also from production equipment, including conveyor systems, ship loaders and rotary rail car jumpers. The common denominator among all the equipment is that each unit requires preventive maintenance and repairs.

A second system was left in place because it is uniquely designed for liquid storage as opposed to the bulk material side of the business.

Dossier has done everything Pleu expected, he says, providing owning and operating costs for the fleet. In addition, the system performs a multitude of other chores, such as providing data that enables the company to fully utilize life cycle analysis and identify the most advantageous time to replace a unit.

Pleu can view any business unit’s equipment and know, for example, if equipment is due or overdue for PM, if work orders are opened and acted upon, and whether or not they are closed when the job is finished. “We can drill down to each category of equipment and extract whatever data we need,” he says.

Repair shops throughout Kinder Morgan’s organization are as varied as the equipment. Some business units have actual repair shops where major repairs, such as engine rebuilding, can be done. Other company locations have temporary service buildings that shelter technicians who perform routine PM.

“It varies all over the board depending on the complexity of the work,” Pleu says. “In other cases we may do PM only and rely on OEM dealerships for major work.”

For a 250-hour PM, for example, Dossier generates an entire checklist of everything the technician needs to do.

“With our earlier systems, we had to go outside the system to get the information—perhaps to a notepad document in another location or, for instance, to an owner operators’ manual,” Pleu says. “Dossier includes the PM checklist with the repair order and tells the technician the specific parts and tools he needs to do the job. This prevents a technician from tearing down a machine only to discover he doesn’t have a 10-cent O-ring to get the equipment up and running again. Dossier gives him all the gadgets, tools, parts and special tools he needs—in advance—to finish the job.” And, Pleu adds, Dossier can even provide the technician with a repair manual, if one exists in electronic format.

Although the system has unquestionably improved maintenance-management efficiency and has reduced operation cost, it’s too early to calculate just how much, Pleu says.

“I wish there were a way to do that, but at this point we’re still rolling this thing out. The implementation is a crawl-walk-run approach. Ultimately, we want to get everybody to the run stage, but, like other businesses, we are a lean operation. The biggest challenge we face right now is finding someone to handle data entry.”

Technician time is too valuable to be spent on data entry and producing work orders, he says. Finding a resource to do the job is even more of a challenge since it isn’t necessarily a full-time job.

“It depends on the amount of equipment you have,” he says. “Once the system is fully implemented, you move from the crawl stage to the walk stage. Then you shouldn’t have to spend more than an hour or two a day with the system.” Data entry in some cases can be done by an administrative person, a maintenance supervisor, or depending on the business unit, a maintenance manager.

 “We are about 40 percent in the run stage,” Pleu says. The fleet system then needs to be integrated with the organization’s financial system, which is “a challenge.”

To speed up implementation, Pleu is already looking at more advanced technology. There are scanners now available that “let you barcode everything from technicians to parts to machines,” he says. “These scanners automatically update everything, but they are very expensive. We plan to do a trial next year with the more advanced systems.”

Another key driver in implementing Dossier is updating machine hours. Since PMs for all the heavy equipment are based on hours of service, Kinder Morgan has to retrieve hour meter readings.

“Those readings now are done manually,” Pleu says. “That’s why I am really excited about AEMP’s telematics standard. When we buy future equipment, the machines will come from the OEM with telematics as standard. We are now testing the AEMP standard on our server, and just last week, we began working with various OEMs to determine if the OEM server will communicate with our server and, when queried, upload the data into Dossier.”

The test trials are being conducted with the help of Kinder Morgan’s IT department, which has assigned a person dedicated to the project. “We’re shooting for a working system by the end of the year,” Pleu says.

Before a system such as Dossier can be launched, four things have to be in place, according to Pleu.

•            An accurate list of the equipment to be tracked;

•            An accurate list of in-stock PM parts: filters, hoses, belts, “O” rings;

•            All technician information; and

•            Complete information from all parts vendors, including third-party service providers.

That in itself is an enormous task, and it clearly illustrates why Pleu said the biggest challenge in launching such a system is the “crush of up-front work.”